All posts by Daniel Scher

Daniel Scher, Ph.D., is a senior digital strategist at McGraw-Hill Education. He worked as a senior scientist at KCP Technologies, co-directing the NSF-funded Dynamic Number project and Forging Connections project.

Constructing the Pi-Petal Rose

When I was introduced to radian measure in high school, I knew just one thing: How to convert between radians and degrees. Had you asked me to illustrate a radian on a circle or to explain why radian measure was useful, I would have been stumped. In this post, I'll describe a Web Sketchpad activity that … Continue Reading ››

Tweaking the Expanding Circle Construction

In last month's blog post, I described a parabola construction technique dating back to the work of Persian polymath  Ibn Sina  (c. 970 – 1037). After I published the post, my colleague Scott noted that my construction could be more robust to allow for parabolas that are downward facing as well as upward facing. … Continue Reading ››

The Expanding Circle Construction

There can never be enough conic-section construction techniques—at least that's my philosophy, having grown up to think that conics existed purely in the realm of algebraic equations. So to continue my conic section construction series on Sine of the Times, I'll present a parabola construction attributed to Ibn Sina (Avicenna), a Persian polymath (c. 970 – … Continue Reading ››

The Varied Paths to Constructing a Rhombus

In how many different ways can you build a rhombus that stays a rhombus when its vertices are dragged? This assignment, a mainstay of Sketchpad workshops, invariably leads to great discussions because there are a multitude of ways to construct a rhombus, with each method highlighting different mathematical properties of the quadrilateral. While the rhombus task works … Continue Reading ››

A Trio of Parabola Constructions

In my prior blog posts, I've presented methods for constructing ellipses  using Web Sketchpad and paper folding. The other conic sections are feeling a bit left out, so let's explore some techniques for constructing parabolas. All three Web Sketchpad models below (and here) are based on the distance definition of a parabola: The set of … Continue Reading ››

An Interactive Approach to Finding nth Roots

When students find the nth roots of a complex number, they use de Moivre's Theorem and a fair bit of calculation and trigonometry. In this blog post, I'm going to approach the topic from a more visual perspective and make use of the following geometric way to think about complex number multiplication: To multiply two complex … Continue Reading ››

Beam of Light

This month's post is based on a problem that appears in Martin Gardner's Sixth Book of Mathematical Diversions from Scientific American. Below (and here) is a Web Sketchpad model of an orderly forest. There is a tree at every point whose x- and y-coordinates are both integers. These are the green points. You … Continue Reading ››

Catching Up with New Web Sketchpad Functionality

This past January, we introduced the Web Sketchpad Tool Library and  Viewer. The Tool Library is a collection of over 60 mathematical tools for customizing a Web Sketchpad model, making it possible for teachers to decide which tools students have available to them on an activity-by-activity basis. The Viewer is a site … Continue Reading ››

The Folded Circle Construction

Of all the conic section construction techniques, my favorite is undoubtedly the approach that requires nothing more than a paper circle. Here's what to do: Draw or print a circle and its center, point A, on a sheet of paper. Cut out the circle. Mark a random point B anywhere on the circle. Then, fold … Continue Reading ››